We have learned that God is all-powerful and has infinite love for us. He has created everything, including us, and we know that all His creation is good. He made us in His likeness and image. After the Fall of Adam and Eve, God sent Christ, His Son, to save us from the consequences of their sin and showed us the way to eternal life with God. Christ also established the Church as a place where we can work out our own salvation in community with others.
What am I to do? How am I to do it? When am I going to do it? These are questions you should take some time to reflect on. Orthodox Christianity is not a theoretical or philosophical religion, but is a way of life, a way to perfection and salvation. A way to eternal life.
Where do we find God?
To find God in our life we do not have to go far as God dwells within us.
Paul says: For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them.… (IICorintians 6:16)
Jesus says about Himself: I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelations 3:20)
Paul says about the Holy Spirit: Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Cor 3:16)
This indwelling of divine nature is not mental, but is a living and enlivening thing. All of our mental efforts to know God are only a means.
If God is already present, why do we need to attain Communion with God?
Does not Scripture say, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27)? And is it not a common understanding that God is everywhere? That they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:27)
So why do we have to seek after God? Saint Diadochus tells us, From the instant we are baptized, grace is hidden in the depths of the intellect. But Why? It is God who is hiding? Of course not. The reason is that we lack desire and our personal sinfulness separates us from God.God is within each of us.
Saint Theophan the Recluse says that His presence remains unclear until the heart is purified after which it dwells visibly. Saint Diadochus says that we are separated from God because we have not yet made holy love habitual in ourselves.
Communion with God begins with our awakening. We may spend years, even as adults after our baptism, without a sincere interest in God. Then for some reason we choose to seek for Him. We search and discover God. God reveals Himself to us in some way. But God is still outside of us. When we are baptized God enters into our souls by His grace and becomes in live communion with us. But He will then quickly hide Himself again until we are more spiritually mature.
We are psychosomatic beings. Our soul is integral with our body. We only need to open ourselves to His presences and we will become aware of His presence and be in constant communion with Him. We are the ones who turn ourselves away from God and separate ourselves from Him. We choose to rely on our own mental constructs (our own world view) to inform us about God. It is then our own creation of God in our minds that separates from the reality that is already part of us.
The chart below shows our condition and our opportunity. We are created by God with His image. We are endowed with a free will to choose God or to ignore Him. It is through the Grace of God that we are able to grow spiritually to the likeness of God and become Christ like. This is the image that we are made in. This possibility that exists for all of us is called Theosis . When we grow in this way the Christ within us shines through like the light of Tabor or the Transfiguration. It is a light that we cannot hide.
What are we to do?
- We begin with Faith in God and the Truth of the Scriptures
- We receive the seed at Baptism and Chrismation
- We humble ourselves to receive God and seek to change our behaviors which is called Repentance (Metanoia - a change of mind)
- We pray and fast along with other ascetic practices to open our heart to God for His grace to help us.
- We participate in the Church Sacraments to cultivate the seed within and receive His grace.
- With grace and right choice we grow closer and closer to God
- After death we will know God and God will know us. It is this union that will yield our salvation and eternal life with God.
Where do we begin?
Our starting point is to better understand why we are separated from God and bring about a true change in our way of seeing the world. So the first step is examine our world view.
It is important to recognize that our current world does not embrace the Orthodox way of life. Our current culture presents us with many problems. It is based on many theories that came out of the Renaissance called the “Age of Enlightenment.” Our current western culture has built into it assumptions that come from rationalism, relativism, empiricism, humanism and secularism that all evolved out of this period of human history in the Western world. It is based on different assumptions about reality than those held by Eastern Orthodox minds. It is the implications of these underlying assumptions that block us from knowing God.